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A new film starring a Fayetteville artist has been selected for several well-known film festivals this year.
The short film “South” tells the story of Fayetteville artist South Walker and his unique ability as a sculptor as an artist on the autism spectrum.
South’s story is remarkable. Before his diagnosis, as his mother Missi tells it, the Walkers were visiting Tulsa for a trip to the zoo when a waitress at a pizza restaurant inadvertently helped South discover his talent while at the same time giving him a way to communicate that he hadn’t been able to find before.
At the time, their son was about three years old and the Walker’s knew South was a little late to begin speaking and was fussier than normal at restaurants. Otherwise, though, they weren’t aware that anything was out of the ordinary with their first child.
As part of their vacation, though, as they were determined to have at least one dinner that didn’t come from a drive-thru, their son began predictably melting down at the table at a restaurant when the waitress brought over something that changed everything.
“This little waitress came by and said, ‘Does he want some pizza dough,'” Missi said in the opening minute of the documentary.
South immediately went to work with the dough, and the family enjoyed their first-ever quiet meal at a restaurant. South sculpted McDonald’s golden arches out of the dough, communicating what would have been his preference for dinner that evening, and unlocking a new skill that has become a lifelong passion.
A view inside South’s Lab. Screen capture / “South”
Since that fateful moment at a Tulsa Carrabba’s Italian Grill, sculpting has become a passion for South. The artist – now 19 – has spent countless hours sculpting thousands of small figures, including everything from cartoon characters to sports mascots and people from popular culture in his “laboratory” in the dining room of his parents’ house.
Last year during the pandemic, Kyle Gibbons – one of his former teachers from McNair Middle School – suggested the idea to make a short film about his abilities. Gibbons’ pitched the idea to Patrick Cone, his friend from college, who is a filmmaker with C1 Entertainment, and the film project was born.
Cone and Gibbons visited the Walkers and shot the film over two days last summer, and the movie was released in the fall.
Missi said that South’s trust in Gibbons and Cone’s simple, minimally-intrusive style of filming helped make her son comfortable enough to participate in the film.
South surrounded by his creations. Screen capture / “South”
“I didn’t know if South would do it or not, but having Kyle there to ask the questions was big, and of course, Patrick was great with him,” she said. “He had his camera and lights, but he shot the whole film himself, and he was as non-intrusive as he could be.”
The film is about 12 minutes long and includes appearances by South, his parents Missy and Stuart Walker, his sisters Lexi and Katie, his art teachers Natalie Conway and Duane Coleman and several of his friends who have received his sculptures as gifts over the years.
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